The Bishop of London has issued this pastoral letter: Do this in remembrance of me.
A Pastoral Letter from the Bishop of London on the Eucharistic Life of the Church in London
A PDF version is available here.
His comments on the Ordinariate and the use of Roman liturgical texts by Anglicans in London are copied below the fold. The following excerpt is addressed primarily to other parts of the diocese:
Our liturgy is one which arises from the command of Jesus Christ, “Do this in remembrance of me” not in order to build a temple made with hands but to build his body which the gospel writers say has replaced the physical temple.
It follows from all this that obeying his command is an integral part of Christian discipleship. In this context there are a number of aspects of our own church life which deserve urgent consideration at the present time.
In some parts of our church it can appear that the service of Holy Communion is an appendix to services of the Word and not accorded the central significance which the express command of Jesus would seem to warrant. The reformers of our own church, Cranmer and Ridley [as Bishop of London] desired more frequent communion than was the practice in the late mediaeval Western church. Calvin also commends weekly eucharistic practice in his Institutes [IV: xvii. 46], “At least once in every week the table of the Lord ought to have been spread before each congregation of Christians.”
Despite the teaching of the early Reformers their intention was overtaken later in the 16th century by a near exclusive focus in some parts of the church on the ministry of the Word.
The recent conclusion of more than twenty years work has resulted in a wealth of provision for celebrating the liturgy. Styles will differ in tune with the culture of different parishes and communities and provision has been made for rich variety but there should be a common core and not least our celebrations of the Eucharist on Sunday, the Day of Resurrection.
On the Ordinariate and the Roman Rite:
Our part of the Church is not alone in having spent a great deal of effort on liturgical reform. At Advent, our brothers and sisters in the Roman Catholic Church will be required to use new liturgical texts. We can always learn from the example of other members of the Christian community and indeed our own liturgy has been reformed by reference to the testimony and practices of the Church of the first centuries.
In former times before the liturgies of our Church had fully recovered these early forms, some of our priests adopted the Roman rite as a sign of fidelity to the ancient common tradition and an expression of our unity in Christ. At best their intention was to contribute to the recovery of a tradition which is both Catholic and Reformed, while pointing the way to the liturgical convergence we now enjoy, not least through the work of the international English Language Liturgical Consultation. They also recognised the proper place in the liturgy of prayer for leaders in the world wide church in addition to our own Archbishop. This is especially true of the Pope, who is undeniably the Patriarch of the West and as head of the Roman Catholic Church is charged with awesome pastoral and missionary responsibilities.
Much has been achieved and the debates of previous generations have influenced the Church’s liturgical practice and contributed to a convergence of eucharistic doctrine and rites. So it is with some dismay that I have learned of the intentions of some clergy in the Diocese to follow instructions which have been addressed to the Roman Catholic Church and to adopt the new Roman eucharistic rites at Advent.
The Pope has recently issued an invitation to Anglicans to move into full communion with the See of Rome in the Ordinariate where it is possible to enjoy the “Anglican patrimony” as full members of the Roman Catholic Church. Three priests in the Diocese have taken this step. They have followed their consciences.
For those who remain there can be no logic in the claim to be offering the Eucharist in communion with the Roman Church which the adoption of the new rites would imply. In these rites there is not only a prayer for the Pope but the expression of a communion with him; a communion Pope Benedict XVI would certainly repudiate.
At the same time rather than building on the hard won convergence of liturgical texts, the new Roman rite varies considerably from its predecessor and thus from Common Worship as well. The rationale for the changes is that the revised texts represent a more faithful translation of the Latin originals and are a return to more traditional language.
Priests and parishes which do adopt the new rites – with their marked divergences from the ELLC texts and in the altered circumstances created by the Pope’s invitation to Anglicans to join the Ordinariate – are making a clear statement of their disassociation not only from the Church of England but from the Roman Communion as well. This is a pastoral unkindness to the laity and a serious canonical matter. The clergy involved have sworn oaths of canonical obedience as well as making their Declaration of Assent. I urge them not to create further disunity by adopting the new rites.
There will be no persecution and no creation of ritual martyrs but at the same time there will be no opportunity to claim that the Bishop’s directions have been unclear. All the bishops of the Diocese when visiting parishes will celebrate according to the rites of the Church of England allowing for permitted local variations under Canon B5.